In the original Great Escape back in 2001.02, left-back Kevin Nicholson scored a crucial goal to ensure Notts County avoided relegation and another, Alan Sheehan did the same to set the Magpies on their way to fifth consecutive home win. Another from substitute Callum McGregor deep into second half stoppage time ensured that Notts climbed out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 victory over Swindon Town.
Mustapha Dumbuya returned to the starting 11 in place of Callum McGregor for the huge fixture, as Notts switched to a 4-4-2 formation. Curtis Thompson partnered Gary Liddle in the centre of midfield, as Josh Vela, back from a knock, watched on from the bench.
The Magpies started well and Jamal Campbell-Ryce looked particularly dangerous with his confident dribbling and, in the fourth minute, he got the better of Jay McEverley to deliver a dangerous back-post centre, which Jimmy Spencer nodded wide. Moments later, a Sheehan free-kick delivery into the box found Haydn Hollis, whose headed attempt bounced wide of the back post.
With the visitors pushed deep, Notts’ pressure paid off in the 10th minute, after Jack Grealish met Sheehan’s forward run with a clever pass inside. The full-back continued his run into the box and rifled across goal to find the bottom corner.
It was just the start that County needed on a tense day for the supporters, though Town nearly hit back immediately. Nathan Thompson found Alex Pritchard, who swivelled into space on the edge of the box before curling narrowly wide of the top-left corner.
Campbell-Ryce was required to chip in defensively with a vital last-ditch challenge to deny McEverley, after the wideman had escaped into the box. The resulting corner was driven low towards McEverley again but Gary Liddle charged his powerful shot down.
On 26, for the Robins, Thompson found Michael Smith with a cross from the right but the striker’s side-footed volley from eight yards flew wide of the mark. Then, eight minutes later, a Pritchard corner was headed back across goal by Raphael Branco and nodded wide by Troy Archibald-Henville.
Notts almost doubled the lead from a well-placed Sheehan corner that saw Spencer denied a near-post finish by Massimo Luongo’s crucial clearance. From a targeted delivery from the left, Spencer then produced a knockdown for Ronan Murray, whose first-touch effort swerved away from the bottom-right corner.
Following the interval, Murray had a golden opportunity to score, when he latched onto a poor defensive header. The Irishman sent Wes Foderingham the wrong way with his finish but the ball clipped the goalkeeper’s trailing leg and Notts had to settle for a corner, from which Liddle felt aggrieved not to be awarded a spot kick after he was dragged to the turf.
On 59, industrious work in midfield by Thompson allowed the Magpies to break and Spencer found Murray in space. The striker prodded into the path of Campbell-Ryce, whose low hit was superbly blocked by Branco.
Swindon were by no means out of the game and Luongo should have equalised when he found space inside the box, but Bartosz Bialkowski narrowed the angle and the midfielder placed into the side netting. In quick response, Murray was unable to add a strong enough touch to Campbell-Ryce’s dangerous centre, before he had a strong penalty call turned down.
Bialkowski had to remain on his toes to fist away a well-hit McEveley centre but Notts continued to look the better of the sides. From a Sheehan corner, Spencer was next to try his luck with a fierce half volley that dipped inches over and crashed against the stanchion.
Murray was booked for an apparent dive when he went to ground in the box again and he was fortunate to escape a second yellow for a late challenge on Thompson. The striker, who had worked tirelessly throughout, was replaced by McGregor shortly after to ensure that he remained available for the massive final day clash with Oldham Athletic.
Another impressive Sheehan free-kick almost resulted in Smith finding his own net and he would have had Foderingham not been there to tip behind. The Magpies’ following corner attempt led to Sheehan whipping in another teasing ball from the right flank, which only just evaded the outstretched toe of Spencer at the back post.
Pritchard had two decent efforts for Swindon in a late attempt to snatch a share of the spoils. The first bounced awkwardly in front of Bialkowski but the stopper was able to smother, before his second flew harmlessly over.
There was a lengthy stoppage in play when Archibald-Henville was shown a straight red card for an off the ball incident. This prompted a mass confrontation in front of the Kop, which also led to Swindon’s Thompson being shown a second yellow.
Nine minutes of added time was displayed and the visitors piled bodies into the box, despite being two men down. From a free-kick, even the goalkeeper raced forward, which led to County’s second of the afternoon.
Nathan Tyson, who had replaced Grealish, hacked clear and Campbell-Ryce raced clear. The winger unselfishly squared for McGregor and left the Scotland Under-21 international with the simple job of placing over the line with his 14th goal of the campaign.
The Black & White Army remained behind to pay tribute to their team, who have turned around their form dramatically to give themselves a big chance of survival on the final day. There is still work to be done at Boundary Park but it is in the Magpies’ own hands.